Reid Nixes "Gang of Six" - Members Stunned

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As congressional Democrats and the White House scrambled to save bipartisan deficit reduction talks led by Vice President Joe Biden, in the wake of the two GOP participant-lawmakers pulling out, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., also delivered a rather surprising bit of news to the bipartisan negotiators in the Senate group known as the "Gang of Six."

"My honest feeling is that I think we're beyond gangs of five and gangs of six," Reid said at a news conference with reporters, with one participant standing behind him, Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin.

Aides to a number of participants confirmed to Fox that they were, indeed, shocked. Durbin did appear stunned and promptly turned and walked away. The Illinois Dem has been involved in debt talks, having also been a member of President Obama's fiscal commission, for more than a year.

In fact, the bipartisan group, who have been meeting for months for long hours, was scheduled to meet Thursday, before one member, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-ND, had to leave town to deal with flooding in his home state.

Conrad, before he departed, told reporters that he thought the possible implosion of the Biden talks could be an opportunity for his gang. The Budget Committee Chairman said there was talk of a two-step process moving forward, a "down payment" on deficit reduction done by statute, and later, the creation of a legislative process that would act as an enforcement measure.

Conrad offered little detail, but he made it clear he thought his group's talks were very much alive.

The gang had recovered, somewhat, from a stinging blow in mid-May with the departure of linchpin member Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., but Conrad, Durbin, Mark Warner, D-Va., along with Republicans Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Idaho's Mike Crapo all agreed to press on and continue try to find a grand bargain.

Durbin even coined a catchy new name for the group, "The Five Guys."

The Reid comment Thursday was also sure to surprise many other members of his own caucus and a handful of Republicans who had been counting on a bipartisan plan to reduce the nation's skyrocketing debt by some $4 trillion over 10 years. There was growing concern that the Biden group, talking about a $2 trillion reduction, was not tackling the debt sufficiently enough.

But Reid said the talks to reduce the debt, ahead of a vote to increase the nation's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, would now likely move to the highest level.

"I think it's now in the hands of the Speaker and the president, and sadly, probably me."